Hawks reserve center Zaza Pachulia could be among the NBA players who will join overseas clubs if the lockout continues into the 2011-12 season.
Pachulia, who is under contract with the Hawks for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons for a total of about $10 million, said he has a “verbal agreement” to play next season for the Turkish club Besiktas.
“They have interest, I have interest and we have talked about price,” Pachulia said Friday. “It’s not official now.”
Pachulia said the contract with Besiktas would immediately terminate when NBA owners and players agree on a new labor deal. The contract also would include insurance for Pachulia because his guaranteed contract with the Hawks would not be protected in case of an injury sustained while playing in another league.
NBA owners locked out players last week after the two sides didn’t come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement. The regular season usually starts in late October.
Players faced with the possibility of not earning NBA paychecks when games are canceled may look elsewhere.
“I wish none of us [NBA players] would have to deal with these kind of things,” Pachulia said. “But the most important thing is I love the game.”
The Hawks are not authorized to comment about their players during the lockout.
Besiktas also has an agreement with New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams, who so far is the highest-profile NBA player to commit to playing overseas. Lakers star Kobe Bryant reportedly is considering a barnstorming tour of exhibition games in China, and Roger Mason Jr., a players union vice president, told Newsday that other top players have inquired about playing overseas.
Pachulia, 27, would not face culture shock in Turkey. He is a native of Georgia, a bordering country, and speaks Turkish.
“For me, it feels like going home,” he said. “I played there for six years [as a teenager]. I know a lot of the players, the manager, the coaches. I’m excited.”
Pachulia plans to play for Georgia in European Olympic qualifying this summer. FIBA is expected to announce a plan to insure NBA players who participate in international competitions.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com